Datacom Brings IT Flexibility and Scale to Presbyterian Aged Care

The ability to tap into IT resources on demand, such as instantly having extra staff in the IT department to help with server support,– what organisation wouldn’t want that?

Sydney-based Presbyterian Aged Care (PAC) wanted this type of strategic IT flexibility. A provider of high-quality care and accommodation for individuals over age 70, PAC approached Datacom for IT support services to accommodate their constantly changing technology needs. The organisation wanted access to IT resources at any time without having to staff them in their NSW and ACT locations. They also wanted to fill the gaps in professional IT skills and capabilities that some of their full-time staff were lacking without having to skill up those employees. Datacom’s solution was to give them outsourced IT help that already had the knowledge to fulfil PAC’s technology and business goals.

All the bases covered

PAC wanted improvements in four areas: IT flexibility in supporting business goals; responsiveness in daily operations; a combination of in-house and specialist IT skills without recruiting or training more staff; and scheduling and delivering IT projects while managing daily support.

It was a lot of ground to cover. Fortunately, Datacom was able to tailor a solution for PAC through its In-house Plus Support Services team.

A crew of experienced, vendor-certified personnel, the services team gave PAC the broad-ranging skills and expertise it needed. To strike the balance between strategy and “lights-on” operations, Datacom offered both onsite and remote IT help at several PAC locations in NSW and ACT. The services team covered troubleshooting tasks, including dedicated network, server and backup/restore support, and filled in for PAC staff on leave or out sick.

With the behind-the-scenes operations sorted, PAC was able to work with Datacom to refocus on its strategic IT initiatives through ongoing systems audits, system health checks and reports and continuous improvement projects. And perhaps the best part: PAC was able to take advantage of a flexible pricing model that enabled them to better manage and get more out of their IT budget.

Evolving together

The end result of the PAC-Datacom partnership was a well-rounded, more strategic IT department. There’s now a dynamic, on-demand nature to PAC’s IT environment, enabling staff resources and knowledge to be allocated appropriately.

A large part of the success, according to PAC, was Datacom’s passionate, partner-focused approach to the project, plus its local support in both NSW and ACT. PAC appreciated that Datacom took the time to understand their business, their goals and how they operate. Every step of the support service solution was planned with PAC’s short-term and long-term objectives in mind.

PAC couldn’t be more pleased with the service they received through the In-house Plus Support Services team, says Eamonn Ryan, Information Technology Services Manager, Presbyterian Aged Care.

“The entire Datacom team is impeccably qualified, highly professional and provides very flexible support,” he says. “Datacom’s team has worked seamlessly as part of our in-house IT capability, developing strong relationships built on a high level of dedication and a commitment to providing a quality service.”

6 Steps to Take Now for a Future Unified Communications Program

Maybe you’ve only started thinking aboutthe value unified communications can add to your organisation. Even if the actual implementation is months or perhaps years aways, you can never plan enough. Like any venture that touches so many aspects of back-end and employee-facing technology, starting a unified communications (UC) programme will demand extensive evaluation and planning.

From the beginning phases of envisaging your solution to specifying the down-and-dirty requirements for individual pieces of technology, UC is a large investment of your organisation’s time and money. Following a logical and adaptable plan will help ensure your UC programme is designed to improve end-users’ productivity and achieve ROI for your organisation.

While each organisation will have its own variations, partnering with a UC solution provider willing to address and provide insight into the various stages of UC planning is your best bet for a successful implementation.

1.  Determine which UC solutions complement your strategic initiatives. Make sure the providers you’re considering can not only offer the technical services but also build the organisation case to ensure success. See what upfront insights the UC provider can provide on your IT strategy for this project and the entire department.

Ideally, your provider will take the time to supply costs and risks as well as identify key metrics and demonstrate the time required to achieve ROI. When you can quantify productivity and measure customer service improvements, you’ll have a much easier time gaining approval for your UC project.

2.  Evaluate current processes and technology. Of course you’ll want assistance with the strategy, planning and organisation case. But like any IT leader, you’ll need a provider that’s willing to help with the inventory and assessment. Your provider should be ready and willing to help evaluate the communications processes and technology currently in use throughout your organisation.

3.  Conduct architecture validation. How will your design hold up to real-world implementation? Can it scale to the growing needs of your organisation? An IT outsourcing provider like Datacom will validate your design against the solution requirements and design objectives before diving too far into the implementation process. This step will prove invaluable if your organisation includes a particularly complex communications environment such as a call centre.

4.  Discover ways to optimise your UC solution. At this juncture, the amount of time dedicated to strategy and documentation as well as validation should reveal problems never forecasted and opportunities never considered. And your provider should present you with a plan to optimise your UC programme that doesn’t break the bank.

5.  Test network readiness. Eventually, the rubber has to hit the network road. Can your network — especially networks for satellite offices—handle your UC programme? Your vendor should test your network readiness to determine if the current infrastructure is up to the task. From hardware to capacity through quality of service and security, the vendor should notify you of any network gaps that must be filled.

6.  Devise and implement your tactics and calendar. Your UC provider should be as eager as you are to launch this initiative. But make sure they’re projecting realistic deadlines and a laundry list of tactics needed before your UC programme goes live.

What steps are you taking to plan a unified communications programme at your organisation?

Making the Case for Unified Communications: Two Ways to Show Value

By Lauren Fritsky

Unified communications requires acquiring new infrastructure, reconfiguring telephony and other systems and determining whether certain technologies will work together. The cost, time and resources needed for this type of project can easily dissuade organisations from investing in it. However, considerable value lies in the cost and productivity savings to be gained from a properly executed unified communications project – it’s up to IT to demonstrate these ends to the rest of the business.

1. Highlight productivity cost savings

Ineffective communications can be a major drag on productivity, which, in turn, is a major drag on your budget. Poor communications robs businesses of roughly $13,000 in productivity each year, according to a recent article in Forbes. More narrowly, a Microsoft study points out that implementing a VoIP system as part of an organisation’s unified communications solution results in a productivity increase of $500 per employee per year. One company that installed integrated presence says IT staff saved about 30 minutes a day by avoiding trying to reach people by phone and instead being alerted when someone was available via the presence portion of the unified communications solution. Armed with these types of figures, IT can better demonstrate to other leaders in the business that unified communications is a worthwhile investment.

2. Focus on simplicity

Attempt to explain a complex unified communications deployment and you might see a lot of eyes glazing over. Don’t focus on the challenging aspects of reconfiguring and integrating systems, pilot testing and introducing users to a new technology platform – emphasize how the solution targets complexity within the organisation. The Aberdeen Group found in a recent study that organisations focused on reducing complexity – or making overall operations related to communications easier – in their unified communications deployments saved as much as $3 billion. Key questions for organisations to ask before they leap into this type of project include how easy it is to deploy, use and manage the solution. Choosing a provider that can procure the technology for your unified communications solution, custom design the implementation, integrate with your legacy systems and offer post-support can help cut down on deployment setbacks and IT resources. This type of complete project lifecycle management will help ensure your unified communications solutionaligns with your business strategy and aim to ease communication and collaboration between employees.

How did you demonstrate the value of a unified communications implementation to your organisation?

Making the Most of Your IT Budget in an Uncertain Economy

By Lauren Fritsky

Whether you look at the bright side (Australia’s economy posted an annual growth rate of 4.3 per cent) or the bad side (the ASX and dollar are playing tricks on us), economic uncertainty will likely continue to hover as the new financial year dawns. Organisations are still treading lightly, and budgets now face new hurdles such as extra energy costs brought on by the carbon tax.

What’s an IT department to do? Take inventory of your technology and make the right investments to help your organisation grow and save costs in the long-term.

Check what you already have

Simple advice, but how many organisations actually take stock of software and hardware sitting idle that they could be using or that they no longer need? Conducting a software asset management programme can help organisations get a better handle on software needs. You likely have multiple versions of the same software at your organisation, which could be increasing costs and adding a support burden to the IT department. A SAM programme also helps you track software licensing investments to ensure they are cost-efficient. On the hardware front, there could be buy-back and trade-in options for hardware and special savings through your vendors over the course of the year.

Streamline your outsourcing

Outsourcing certain IT functions can save your organisation up to 30 per cent and allow greater flexibility during peak and off-peak times. Opting for a pay-as-you-go model and amenable contract ensures you can match the level of service to your budget and business needs; there’s no need to commit to a year-long agreement that you might no longer need three months in.

Choosing one provider that supplies a variety of services such as help desk support can help streamline the IT environment and offer lower costs than might be accomplished through using multiple providers. One government agency in New Zealand was able to achieve significant cost savings by reducing the amount of IT partners to one provider that could supply a pay-as-you-go model, which allowed the organisation to ramp up during times of peak demand. Cutting the IT fat also enabled the agency to gain better consistency in IT operations and avoid duplicating certain functions.

Clear up extra costs with server consolidation and cloud

Gartner found that 60 per cent of the Australian IT budget goes toward operations and infrastructure. Consolidating servers is one way to cut down this spending by as much as 20 per cent; cloud is another. Organisations can diminish infrastructure costs and increase efficiency of operations through cloud investment. Research has shown businesses can save up to 25 per cent on IT costs over the first three years by outsourcing data storage, critical business applications and email to the cloud. Businesses facing heat from the carbon tax can also decrease their footprint by 30 to 90 per cent using cloud for business applications thanks to the drop in data centre heating and cooling costs and reduced hardware use.

Opting for a cloud services provider with pay-as-you-go models, flexible contracts and colocation services allows businesses to slowly transition into the cloud while retaining the ability to scale up or down and shorten or extend their agreement depending on fluctuating business needs.

How is your IT department saving money?

Overcoming IT Budget Challenges

By Peter Wilson

Australian IT spending will finally increase in 2012 after declining the previous two years, according to Gartner. The rise is modest – 1.9 per cent, which likely means your IT department will still be asked to do more with less while continuing to drive innovation. A department seeking to become more strategic can’t risk using IT budget challenges as an excuse to delay key projects and investments that could bring big wins to the enterprise.

Target indirect funding streams

Remember, the rest of the business doesn’t easily see the value of the lights-on functions the IT department supports. That’s why funding will come from IT management delivering original, revenue-producing technologies that support other business units and add competitive advantage. One way to stay innovative on a tight IT budget is through tapping into the other departments at your organisation to leverage their parked funds; the Gartner research indicates more CIOs plan to help other business units like sales retain and gain customers in 2012 by developing technology-enabled solutions. How much time are you investing here?

Implementing technology solutions through other departments means IT can set itself up for more funding down the line through these business units. At this point, you’ve most likely already initiated the discussion with senior management at your enterprise regarding aligning the IT department with business goals. If you’ve been a part of this strategic dialogue and continued consistently delivering on your aims, you should be better positioned to gain access to these other funding steams. Put it this way: if IT doesn’t leverage these other funds with trends like the consumerisation of IT taking hold, then other departments will, and before you know it, your efforts will not be required.

Dive into the deep end to reduce expenditures

We know capital is hard to come by in Australia, but there are ways to shift some of your expenditures into the operational realm. For instance, moving infrastructure to managed cloud services can cut large capital costs by ending the need to obtain new hardware and additional software licences. But many CIOs put off these cost-saving shifts because they’re scared of the riskthe integration challenges or the service management requirements.

These fears really come down to how these projects are planned, allocated resources and overseen. Approaching these large, transformative projects with a detailed plan aligned with your overall IT-business strategy can make them less overwhelming. As you would do with other projects, put risk mitigation and management processes in place and implement a design, test and build approach to develop and deliver these solutions. These IT management processes can cut down the risk of having to make major changes or undo most of the work down the line.

Leverage managed services

Did you know 100 per cent of the top 300 companies in Australia are currently using outsourcing in some area of the business? Even if IT budgets decrease or remain flat, organisations are expected to continue investing in managed services, such as systems management and service desks. Several of Datacom’s managed services are available on a pay-as-you-go model so IT departments can scale resources as project needs change. Many of these services are also offered through flexible contracts so your department need not commit to six months or a full year when budgets and business needs don’t require it.

We’re all feeling the budget squeeze. It doesn’t mean the IT department should stop being agile, innovative and efficient. Look at budget challenges as something to work around instead of something that prevents you from continuing to meet business demands.

Peter Wilson is Datacom’s Managing Director of Systems for Australia and Asia. He helps ensure Datacom offers and fulfils technology solutions globally.

Peter strives to drive the success of the business across locations by strategically directing Datacom’s future. His vision ensures every Datacom location is equipped with the world-class knowledge and capabilities necessary to help enterprises transform their IT department.